Recent health studies suggest that the best start to a healthy day merely begins with eating breakfast. However, many skip this simple task in their daily routines, as overbooked schedules coupled with generally hectic lifestyles leave the average American adult rushing out the door with an empty stomach. Fortunately, for these time-pressed consumers, breakfast products have launched in convenient formats that may be eaten quickly or on-the-go.
Aside from their inherent affiliation with breakfast foods, standard cereals and bars are oftentimes enjoyed by consumers between meal times as a quick snack or temporary fix to hunger pains. Manufacturers’ acknowledgement of their cereals and bars’ product usage have steered them to position some brands as a versatile food to be enjoyed at any time and not just during the morning hours. This type of marketing promotes cereal and bars as products that may be consumed from morning to night, an effort initiated by firms to grow the two segments.
Cereals could safely be regarded as the mainstay of U.S breakfast (and possibly even snack) food offerings. Consumers of all ages eat cereal. From a young toddler learning to feed himself a spoonful of sugary cereal, to the wise elder consuming a brand for its functional health benefits, cereal products are for everyone. On the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), U.S. breakfast cereal product launches slightly decreased by 3% from 2007-2008. However, innovation efforts remained strong in 2008, and several of the category’s top trends carried into this past year’s introductions.
The cereal bar market is estimated by Mintel at nearly $1.6 billion, accounting for food, drug and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart (FDMx) channels at 2008’s year-end. This group is one with strong sales growth, and Mintel reports cereal bars grew an impressive 45% from 2003-2008. Cereal bars showed strong 2007 sales growth of 15.9% (the highest in four years), which offset the flatter years of 2004-2005. However, this food segment saw a decrease in actual product introductions, as Mintel GNPD revealed ready-to-eat bars declined by 15% from 2007-2008.
In evaluating the 2008 consumer attitudes for eating cereal bars, Mintel found--from a sample of 4,000 U.S. adults--that 70% of Americans report consuming these offerings, with granola being the most popular selection. Cereal bars are largely viewed as a convenience food. This finding comes as no surprise, considering 18-24-year-olds (88%) and 25-34-year-olds (83%) are the top demographics most likely to eat cereal bars. These younger adult consumers lead busier lifestyles and have less time for a sit-down meal. Older adults aged 55-64 (56%) and 65+ (47%) represent the smallest group of consumers that eat cereal bars.
Kellogg, General Mills, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo were, respectively, the top four manufacturers of cereals and bars introducing the most U.S. products in 2008. In past years, these mainstreamers have claimed the majority of this group’s launches, and many of their brand portfolios drive the claims and overall trends of cereals and bars in the U.S. Aside from these established companies, smaller niche firms also contributed to the more specialized trends and novel designs in U.S. cereals and bars.
Governmental standards and safety regulations with regard to the processing of U.S. food and beverage products greatly affect brands’ ingredient lists and attributes. As observed in 2007 on Mintel GNPD, kosher continued to rank as cereals and bars’ top claim in 2008, with 392 offerings. This product component is oftentimes paired with additional health functionalities and attributes that promote overall well-being. Kosher-certified items are tagged as such, when a kosher symbol or declaration appears on the labeling of products.
Many of the underlying trends for cereal and bar products in 2008 branched from those found in the previous year. Whole grains continued to emerge in both cereals and bars as a means for manufacturers to position their brands on a broader health and wellness platform. Within the cereal segment, whole-grain stances were particularly visible, and, according to Mintel GNPD, nearly 50% of cereal products adopted the claim in their formulations. In looking at 2008 bar launches, whole grain was less prominent when compared to cereals, but still ranked in the group’s top 10 claims.
Low-, no- and reduced-type formulations are widespread in food products, with more consumers beginning to consciously watch their calorie intake and make purchase decisions accordingly. U.S. cereals and bars accurately reflect this fact, as numerous brands boasted their “low in” attributes through packaging and marketing messages. According to Mintel GNPD, the bars group was especially active in featuring items with stances such as low-/no-/reduced-allergens, trans fat and calorie claims that represented 64% of products in 2008. In the cold cereal category, low-/no-/reduced-fat, cholesterol and trans fat attributes collectively accounted for close to 50% of 2008’s launches. Under the “low in cholesterol” claim, cereals were regularly positioned to support heart health.
As in 2007, all-natural product stances continued to rank as a top claim in 2008’s U.S. cereals and bars. Consumers are becoming more educated about the foods they eat, and have gradually steered away from products with highly processed ingredients that serve to lengthen shelflife. Numerous cereals and bars that embraced an all-natural formulation were also manufactured with organic- and kosher-certified ingredients. The U.S. cereal and bars segments can expect these all-natural claims to carry into 2009’s offerings.
During 2007-2008, the over-arching trend of nutrition and well-being as seen across all food sectors narrowed from a broader “good-for-you” perspective to a focus on specific health concerns in U.S. cereals and bars. After the more obvious specificity of functional health offerings, cereals and bars that contained active probiotics secured the spotlight for their uniqueness and novelty. The first group of products to house probiotics derived from the dairy sector several years ago, particularly within the yogurt sub-group. The probiotic component of these items aid in a healthy digestive and immune system. As non-dairy manufacturers recognized the tremendous success of these items, they altered their own offerings to contain the live microorganisms. Outside of the dairy category, U.S. cereals and bars seemed to best capture the probiotic trend in 2008.
One small manufacturer called Total Granola introduced its Gb Gran-Biotics Very Berry Granola, which is an all-natural granola fortified with four live and active probiotic cultures. Most interesting about this shelf-stable probiotic expression is its specification of four separate live cultures. The cereal brand retails in a flexible, 12oz stand-up pouch for a fairly affordable price of $3.99.
The food giant Kraft launched its own version of a digestive health product with probiotics within the LiveActive brand. These chewy granola bars are targeted to those who seek foods that promote regularity in a category different from dairy. LiveActive is available in Blueberry Almond, Chocolate Raspberry and Peanut Butter variants, and the granola bars are priced $3.59 per box.
In observing both cereal and bar products that deliver functionality or other various health claims, it appears that bars are the most ideal format for consumers to choose in fulfilling their needs. Unlike standard cereals, bars may be easily transported, they do not require the addition of milk, and they can be consumed without utensils. An array of health functionalities appeared in 2008’s U.S. bars introductions, which ranged from outward beauty management to brain health. Regeneration USA Whole Food Products introduced an Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar. This bar’s extensive ingredient list claims to help to slow the body’s natural aging process. On the mainstream product side, Kellogg launched its Live Bright Brain Health Bar--a bar that sustains brain health by delivering 100mg of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in each serving.
Today’s rising obesity rates in America are alarming. According to the Office Management of Obesity, 127 million U.S. adults are overweight, 60 million of which are obese, and 9 million that are categorized as being severely obese. This nationalized health concern has prompted manufacturers to develop products that proactively address it. Mirroring this finding were the U.S. cereals and bars groups that, according to Mintel GNPD, claimed weight control as their top health stance in 2008. In order to classify the products as such, firms extended their brand lines with variants positioned to help in weight management. Kashi’s Go Lean Roll! Protein and Fiber bar releases carbohydrates into the body to balance blood sugar and ward off hunger. “Weight Control” visibly appears across the box of Quaker Foods & Beverages’ Banana Bread Instant Oatmeal product, relaying its suitability for a low-calorie diet.
On the bar side, products rich in protein were routinely observed and oftentimes contained higher counts of dietary fibers and grains. A diet plentiful in protein can create a feeling of satiety. To capture demand from those seeking fullness to curb their appetites, bar manufacturers designed products with high levels of protein. The level of protein found in the segment’s products ranged from small to significantly high counts per serving in each bar. Several U.S. bars directed to athletes and active individuals also leveraged their formulations’ higher protein contents. The Balance Bar Company introduced its Balance Pure line. These fruit and nut bars contain 9g of protein per serving and are gluten-free.
In 2008, cereal and bar items targeted to specific demographics stood out from their competing brands. Targeted marketing certainly is not new to food and beverage groups, although the tactic continues to appeal to the needs-based consumer. Children and females were the top two demographics to which cereal and bar companies directed their marketing initiatives. According to Mintel GNPD, both groups collectively accounted for 8% of U.S. cereals and bars during 2008.
For years, sweet cereal brands have advertised to children using colorful package designs and cartoon characters recognized by many. Now, more cereal and bar manufacturers are directing their focus to another key market, females. When it comes to choosing a cereal or bar brand, the majority of U.S. female consumers want a relatively healthier option.
Luna, a division of Clif Bar & Company, is well-known for its nutritious bars that target women. Particularly interesting about this brand are the products’ flavors, specially chosen with consideration to the female consumer. In the summer of 2008, nutrition bars called Luna Minis launched. These mini-sized bars contain 80 calories and 4g of protein per serving, are high in folic acid and serve as a good source of calcium and antioxidants—attributes that address many female consumers’ health needs. Also interesting about Luna Minis are their indulgent flavors of S’mores, Nutz Over Chocolate and Caramel Nut Brownie.
Some of the more noteworthy ingredients and flavors found in 2008’s U.S. cereal and bar products included the following:
* Goji berry: Also called Wolfberry, the Superfruit is rich in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.
* Pomegranate: Antioxidant-rich fruit that is high in vitamin C levels and originated in Persia.
* Açai: Native to the tropics of South and Central America, the Superfruit is known to boost energy levels and aid in weight loss.
* White Tea: Proven to contain more antibacterial and anti-viral properties in comparison to green tea.
In 2008, innovation was minimal in the package designs of U.S. cereals and bars. The packaging of these product groups are fairly uniform and have mostly remained unchanged in structure over time. However, one private label explored a more pioneering route for the cereal category after introducing a brand packaged in a cardboard container with an enclosed plastic lid. Called Triple Berry Cluster Cereal under Target’s Archer Farms line, this cereal’s container saves storage space because of its rounded edges and slightly smaller box size. Cereal can be poured directly from the pack, and the carton does not contain an inner bag, as seen with the majority of other cereal products. Even more, this package’s design resemblance to a Tupperware cereal container promotes its reusability. pf
The information in this article was derived from the Mintel Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.
www.PreparedFoods.com -- Type in “cereal” and “bars” for a plethora of articles
www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55636 -- An article outlines what constitutes a “good” bar
www.gnpd.com -- Mintel’s Global New Products Database
Going Global: Cereals and Cereal Bars
Around the globe, manufacturers of cereals and bars are increasingly conscious of the ingredients they choose to design their products. Firms are well aware of the monetary rewards that come with leveraging a brand’s ingredient claims to drive sales and have since capitalized on the practice in their product promotion efforts.
In the U.K., Nature’s Plus Red Lightning Bar is a Superfood that contains all-natural vitamins and minerals, probiotics, amino acids, enzymes and phytonutrients. Most notable about the brand is carefully chosen ingredients that combine to make Red Lightning a “health-by-color” product. The bar's main "red" ingredients are pomegranate, noni, mangosteen, açai and goji berry. This product’s claim for housing the same amount of fiber typically found in two bowls of salad is certainly unique for the bars segment.
In Sweden, I Love Eco cereal from ICA is a brand manufactured with sustainable practices. This I Love Eco in Organic Muesli with Fruit is KRAV-certified, denoting that its product design fulfills a whole host of eco-friendly attributes that include consideration for animals, the habitat and other broader social issues. ICA’s deliberate sourcing of its ingredients to ensure sustainability serves as a prime example of cereal manufacturers selecting their products’ ingredients carefully.